Garmin recently released the Garmin Edge 520 Plus, which is of course an update of the very popular Garmin Edge 520, which caused a lot of excitement when it was released in 2015. This post aims to give you all the information you need to choose between the original Garmin Edge 520 and the brand new Edge 520 Plus. First there is a chart that highlights the key differences. Then I discuss those differences. Then I offer some advice on which Garmin Edge to buy, based on your needs. If you don’t have enough time to read all of this, you can jump to the Bottom Line on which Garmin Edge bike computer is right for you. Otherwise, please read on!
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First off, here is a chart that highlights the differences between these two bike computers.
Chart Highlighting the Differences between the Garmin Edge 520 vs 520 Plus
|Big picture||Great for training but not for navigation. Buttons, not touchscreen. Color||Great for training and also has several navigation features - much more than the 520, but but not quite as much as the 1030 and 820. Buttons, not touchscreen. Color|
|Lowest Price on Amazon Right Now:||$217.46||$279.99|
|Weight||2.1 oz (60 g)||2.2 oz (62.5 g). The extra weight is because of the storage space for maps. The difference is the equivalent of a grasshopper hitching a ride on your handlebars!|
|History that can be stored on unit||Up to 180 hours of history||Up to 200 hours of history|
|Smart phone Connected features (depends on having a Bluetooth enabled smartphone, and you have to install the Garmin Connect mobile app on your phone)||Automatic uploads, LiveTrack, smart notifications, send/receive courses, social media sharing, weather||Automatic uploads, LiveTrack and GroupTrack, smart notifications, send/receive courses, social media sharing, weather, rider-to-rider messaging and built-in incident detection|
|Preloaded with TrainingPeaks? (a virtual coach to guide your workouts and training plan)||No, but you can download it with Garmin's Connect IQ app||Yes|
|Trendline popularity routing - when mapping, Trendline uses the routes most popular with cyclists, drawing from Garmin's database||No||Yes|
|Navigation?||No, it cannot figure out how to get to places. However, you can upload a breadcrumbs course and then follow that. When doing that, you do get turn notifications, plus an alert if you go off course||It can guide you to locations using turn-by-turn directions and off-course alerts IF the location is a saved place, OR IF the location is found on Yelp. However, you can add extra navigation if you download routes to the unit|
|Preloaded basemap?||Yes, but very basic. It's just to give you a rough idea of where you are||Yes, preloaded with Garmin Cycle Maps for your region|
|Points of Interest (POIs) specifically for cyclists||No||No, but the preloaded Yelp app does much the same thing|
|Preloaded with TrailForks app?||No, but it is part of Connect IQ, so you can download it||Yes|
|Preloaded with Yelp app?||Part of Connect IQ, so you can download it||Yes|
As you can see, these two premium GPS bike computers do have a fair amount of differences. However, they weigh almost exactly the same. The 520 Plus is 0.1 of an oz heavier. That’s about the same amount of extra weight you would add if a grasshopper hitched a ride on your handlebars. In short, the weight difference is not something I would lose sleep over. They both look like big, beautiful bike computers. They both have the sleek good looks and quality feel that comes with all Garmin bike computers these days. Below is a visual of these two Garmin Edge bike computers.
So How to Decide: Garmin Edge 520 vs 520 Plus?
Both are top-quality bike computers that offer a dazzling number of advanced bike training features. You can connect both of them to a range of useful devices and sensors, such as heart rate monitors, and speed, power, and cadence meters. They both have access to GPS and Glonass satellite systems, so they acquire a GPS signal fast. Both will record your bike rides and will wirelessly transfer your data to Garmin Connect (or Strava, or several other apps). Both offer advanced performance and power analysis, including Time in Zone, FTP (Functional Threshold Power) tracking, cycling-specific VO2 and recovery and cycling dynamics. Both offer live tracking – which means designated people can track where you are. Both are very connected, with phone call and text message alerts, and a ton of other connected features. Both have beautiful color screens.
But … the prices are very different! As usually happens when there is a Garmin update, the Edge 520 can currently be yours for a bargain price. The Edge 520 Plus is therefore substantially more expensive right now. There is a very good reason for this difference – with the Edge 520 Plus upgrade, the little 520 unit has leapfrogged up to compete with the more expensive 820 and 1030, in the sense that it now has some of the navigation features of the 820 and the 1030. But note that I said some, not all, of those features. Read on for more details …
The Garmin Edge 520 Plus, summed up
The Garmin Edge 520 Plus is an upgrade on the Garmin Edge 520. The Edge 520 was widely hailed as the biggest leap forward in bike computers ever, when it was launched in July 2015. Since then it has proven extremely popular. But now, Garmin has improved even further on this stellar little bike computer. Industry observers agree that with the Edge 520 Plus, Garmin appears to be responding aggressively to increasing competition from the likes of Wahoo. (As explored in my post on the Garmin Edge 520 vs. Wahoo ELEMNT.) Is the Edge 520 Plus enough to fight off the competition? Yes, I believe that with this upgrade, Garmin now has the edge in bike computing power at this level (please forgive the pun).
Like the 520, the Garmin Edge 520 Plus has button control, not touch screen control (as found in most of the Edge range). Personally, I prefer button control. Sometimes I find screen swiping doesn’t work perfectly, especially in the rain. Button control gives you complete control, all the time, even with gloves on. On the other hand, many people prefer touchscreen control. Some people find they have become so used to touchscreen controls on their phone that it has become intuitive. If this is you, you may find that not having touchscreen control is annoying.
Differences Between the Edge 520 vs 520 Plus
So, what are the differences between the Edge 520 Plus vs the 520?
Well, the Edge 520:
- did not give you cycling-specific maps;
- could not calculate routes of any kind for you;
- could not give you turn-by-turn directions as you cycled. (For those premium features, you needed to look at the Edge 820 or Edge 1030. If you are interested in comparing those models, see our post on the Garmin Edge 1030 vs 820 vs 520 Plus GPS Bike Computers.)
All you got with the Edge 520 were:
- the most basic of maps;
- plus breadcrumbs-type navigation if you downloaded courses to it.
The Edge 520 Plus has gone a long way towards addressing these issues, adding:
- a much better base cycling map, and
- some ability to give turn-by-turn directions.
But note that the navigation features on the 520 Plus are still not as advanced as those found on the Edge 820 and Edge 1030.
Navigation Features of the Garmin Edge 520 Plus
Specifically, this is what the Garmin Edge 520 Plus can and cannot do, when it comes to mapping and navigation:
- The Edge 520 Plus comes preloaded with Garmin Cycle Maps for your region, so it can navigate along a saved course, or to a saved point (such as your office or your home, or the local pub), without an internet connection. With this kind of navigation, you get turn-by-turn directions and alerts for sharp turns ahead. The Edge 520 does not have these maps.
- When following a route, the Edge 520 Plus can guide you back to the route if you go off course (route recalculation!). The Edge 520 does not have this ability.
- After you follow a route, the Edge 520 Plus can guide you back to the start. The Edge 520 does not have this ability.
- The Edge 520 Plus has the Trendline Popularity feature, which highlights routes that other cyclists prefer. This has the major advantage that you are shown routes that are actually fun or safe to bike, rather than simply the shortest route. The Edge 520 does not have this feature.
- You can use the preloaded Yelp app to find nearby bike shops, coffee shops, etc. – and navigate to them with turn-by-turn directions. The Edge 520 does not have this app preloaded, but you can download it with Connect IQ.
- You cannot find nearby POIs (Points of Interest) and navigate to them (only the Edge 820 and 1030 can do this). However, the Yelp app that is preloaded on the 520 Plus does almost exactly the same thing.
- You cannot search for an address and ask the Edge 520 Plus to navigate to that address (only the Edge 820 and 1030 can do this). Basically this means you need to plan ahead, and download new routes to your Edge 520 Plus before you set off on your bike. For many cyclists this is not a deal-breaker … but for some, it is. This is probably the most important aspect to consider when deciding if the Garmin Edge 520 Plus is for you – if this feature does not matter to you, then it is hard to see how you could wrong with the new Garmin Edge 520 Plus. If it does matter … then neither the 520 Plus nor the 520 will be right for you, and you would need to consider the 820 or the 1030.
In a nutshell, the Garmin Edge 520 Plus will suffice for the navigation needs of all but the most demanding cyclists. To me it looks like the best bang-for-your-buck, premium bike computer on the market today, and it has been rated by BikeRadar as the “best GPS cycling computer on the market for performance-minded riders”. This one is for you if you want absolutely premium bike training features in a small, light, affordable package, and you like the convenience of turn-by-turn directions, but you do not need your bike computer to calculate routes on the fly for you. Plus, you are more into button control than touchscreen control.
The Major Differences between the Garmin Edge 520 vs 520 Plus, summed up
Maps and Navigation
The only differences between the Edge 520 and the 520 Plus worth noting are those related to maps and navigation. If you need a bike computer that you can use for navigation because it will calculate routes to some places, and give you turn-by-turn directions, then you are need an Edge 520 Plus rather than an Edge 520. While the Edge 520 Plus cannot figure out how to get to places on the fly, it is a major improvement on the Edge 520, as detailed fully above. As long as you don’t mind thinking about your cycling plans beforehand, you can download any route you like to the Edge 520 Plus, and get your turn-by-turn directions when you do the ride. And of course, it can navigate to saved places, and to places on the Yelp app.
Also, the Edge 520 Plus uses Trendline Popularity Routing, which means that it draws on the massive Garmin Connect database to choose bike routes that are used by real life cyclists (like us!). You can learn more about Trendline Popularity Routing in this short video:
Bottom Line on which Bike Computer is Right for You: Garmin Edge 520 vs 520 Plus
In my opinion, the best value for most people right now is the Garmin Edge 520 Plus. With the latest updates, it seems to me to be unbeatable, really. However, it really depends on what you personally need, so read on …
- Buy the Edge 520 Plus if you want navigation and turn-by-turn directions for most situations, and don’t mind downloading routes beforehand when you are cycling to brand new destinations. As far as training features, the 520 Plus has all that most cyclists could possibly want.
- Buy the Edge 520 if you want premium training and data features, but really don’t need anybody to navigate for you (that’s me, actually – my wife Maggie is like a human GPS, so she navigates for us!) And of course, because it has been updated, it’s often on at a sale price. The ads below show the current price.
It comes down to what you need and value, and how much you are willing and able to pay for it. It’s a tough choice, but somebody’s got to make it!
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